Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Licensing Special - Artist Wendy Edelson

© 2011 - Alex Colombo
Christmas is around the corner and brings with it a message of peace and hope for a prosperous new year ahead. To help me fully illustrate the spirit of this holidays season I invited a special guest, artist Wendy Edelson, to share her story with us.

I asked Wendy what kind of projects she is working on and she said: "Somehow, all my projects are about Christmas, the Holidays and snow! Sometimes I feel like the Christmas Illustrator...I never really thought about going in that seems to have chosen me."

Artist Wendy Edelson
She also added: "Right now I'm working on the illustrations for two children's books and I have two licensing projects on my drawing board, as well. One book is about 'The Christmas Truce,' the incredible spontaneous cease-fire that occurred along the Western Front on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914, during WW1.

This project required an amazing research into a subject I knew virtually nothing about and is really different from so much of what I have been doing recently. It's been really challenging and interesting drawing German and British soldiers, trenches...all the details of 1914 accurately! A lot harder than painting bunnies!"

© Wendy Edelson - Skater
"The other project is illustrating a picture book version of Over The River and Through the Woods." Wendy is just about finished with the drawings for the spreads and this project has been exactly in "my comfort zone," she says, "a dappled horse and sleigh, patterned clothing, animals, country scenes and SNOW!"

But she isn't done...Wendy has more in the works. She says: "As far as licensing, I'm currently working on a request for art from a possible new client, so this involves snowmen and I'm working on ideas for Holiday 2013 for my fabric line."

She continues telling me: "In the next day or two I will finally begin painting again! I have spent over a month drawing, drawing, drawing all these projects and, for me, the drawing is definitely the WORK!

© Wendy Edelson - GingerMan Puzzle
I wish elves could do the drawing while I sleep. All my work is traditionally created and the painting is the fun part...for me, painting is a the time I sit down to paint, all the decisions and details have been decided, the anatomy and pattern and design figured out and the painting, the playing with color is what all that work was for!"

Wendy's adventure in the art world all began innocently enough when she was two, drawing way across the unfolding landscape of America in the back of the family station wagon, moving from Manhattan to Los Angeles. "I arrived at our new home surrounded by orange and eucalyptus trees, forevermore in love with drawing, having made the decision to Be An Artist during my first road trip.

Fast forward a couple more years to me and my Mom at an ubiquitous shopping center. See me transfixed in front of the window of a small stationary and art supply store. I was mesmerized, gazing rapt, in awe of what had become a Shrine. There, front and center, was a complete set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Until this moment all I'd every drawn with was crayons and I'd painted with drippy poster paints...but these pencils were calling to my Soul.

© Wendy Edelson - Snowman Border
My Mom who had walked ahead of me, came back to where I stood and looked, in a hushed and reverent voice I whispered to her,'those are what REAL ARTISTS use!!!' How I knew about Prismacolors or knew that "Real Artists" used them, I have no idea. In a moment of Pure Parental Perfection my Mom grabbed my hand and bought them for me. My path was chosen and I set out upon it."

© Wendy Edelson - Greenery Pattern
"In the Velveteen Rabbit, a child's love forever transformed a stuffed toy into a Real Rabbit, likewise an early moment of pure faith and love opened wide a little girl's vision. Everyday my Dream and Desire is to create work that somehow allows me to go to bed at night feeling like a 'Real Artist'," Wendy added.

Wendy is a self taught artist; her plans for going to college were put aside when she decided to try working instead and left for New York with a big black portfolio at the age of 17. Wendy says: "My life has been almost all about the work, drawing and painting. Over the years I've moved several times, back and forth from New York and Vermont to the Pacific Northwest and back again; currently I'm living in the Pacific Northwest, planning another move back to the Northeast again, this time to stay. I've married, had a son, fallen in love with dogs and gardening, learned how to cook and speak Italian. In the rare times away from my drawing board I've traveled through Asia, Indonesia and Europe and lived in Mexico for 3 years."

What brought Wendy to create art in the first place? It had to be "that cross country trip in the station wagon," she says. "It just sort of poured out of me and I simply couldn't stop; it truly was more of a calling than a conscious decision."

© Wendy Edelson - CookieJar Print
What excites her is a challenge, an unfamiliar subject, an unfamiliar medium, a scary deadline, a new relationship with a new client, the unknown, flying without a net and color – "color always excites me" - she adds.

Watercolors are her favorite paint; she loves the transparency - "Lately I've begun to use acrylics, the Golden fluids, I love using them as a sort of base to layer watercolors over. If I paint an underpainting with them, say the patterned bark of trees, I can glaze layers of color over that and not worry about the pattern below dissolving at all. Glazing and layering coats of paint so that they seem to glow, that's what I love best but it can be very time consuming," she says.

© Wendy Edelson - Expect
Her inspiration? When she was a child her father gave her books illustrated by Howard Pyle, pen and ink, black and white, which she says "inspired me enormously and definitely implanted a love of pattern and detail. My father was a sculptor, he carved wood and would carve horses, tired work horses and people from the trunks of trees. His studio was filled with those books of photographs of people and animals in motion and anatomy books. I wanted to be with my father so I would draw while he sculpted, and he wouldn't let me stop until he'd decided my drawing was correct. He'd say, 'the foreshortening in that foot is wrong, draw it again!' Sometimes I'd have to draw something twenty times; hard but great training. That still happens but now I have to be my father's voice."

Wendy is also an accomplished licensed artist and so I asked her about it. She has been formally licensing her art for about 7 years. Before that, as a commercial illustrator, she had images of hers re-used so that when she heard about "licensing” it sounded perfect and made a lot of sense to her.

© Wendy Edelson - Tossed Animals
She says: "One of the things I like about licensing is that it's a kind of vacation from the character driven illustration of children's books. In my books I have to create the characters consistently in various poses and moods. With my licensed art I can paint plants, flowers, objects, or animals and take a rest from the people. The two paths, licensing and children's books happily satisfy two different sides of what I love to do. Whenever I do a lot of one, I long to get back to the other."

Wendy is represented by an illustration agent and also a licensing agent. She also has quite a few "house accounts," clients she works with on her own. "I write lots of letters to publishers and clients that I would like to work with, and then, if we connect, continue either on my own or have them contact the proper agent. I'm pretty informal in my approach so I'm happy to have the expertise of agents in the business world." Wendy spends 7 days a week painting, she says.

"I guess what has already been said so many times, by so many other people that one should have as many collections as possible ready to go, and definitely a look, a recognizable style, a theme, something that sets them apart from everyone else", she suggests to newbies.

© Wendy Edelson - Snowman Bunny Border
She also adds: "My work is very personal, it's how I see. I see the world close up and I see in detail, rather than in graphic flat color and bold shapes. The recent trends seem to have been diametrically opposed to my style but I believe that one has to be true to one's own self, that if one's style is really different than what is currently popular one has a choice to make, to try to interpret the trend in one's particular hand or simply keep doing what feels true to one's self and hope that the pendulum swings back a bit. I think that there is a bit more movement towards traditional work and detail, I feel that change. I find that I am known for a very detailed illustration style and clients seek me out for that. Things have been quite tight in the market but they seem to be easing up a bit."

© Wendy Edelson - So many Bunnies Fabric
A couple of other tips she gives to us newbies are these: "One needs to be always looking, whenever one is in a store, anywhere and one sees something that resonates with them, their style; look to see who makes it, write it down and look them up on the Internet.

Just the other day, I saw really cute bowls with a snowman design filled with candy placed on the counters of my bank. My teller dumped all the candy out for me so I could write down the name of the manufacturer that was on the bottom of the bowl. Ideas and possible connections are everywhere! And, above all, be patient and willing to create MOUNTAINS of work for no immediate financial reward. One can easily work a year in advance so, especially in the beginning or during lean times, it can be a bit insecure financially. This makes it even more important that you love what you are doing, and that you have a recognizable look/style of your own."

© Wendy Edelson - Gabriel's Rhino
Wendy's take on trends is also very helpful. She says: "I think art licensing is always evolving, always changing, trends are, just that, trends, as soon as you notice a trend everywhere, it's probably too late to jump on the bandwagon. I find the best thing for me has been to create art that I love creating for myself, and hopefully that people who enjoy my work would enjoy this year, two years from now...indefinitely.

I illustrate books and create art for licensing, and I really only have one style. It's recognizable and the images for books are similar to the art I create for my fabric lines, for cards, for puzzles. I am working on tabletop and various decorative pieces for home and garden now and it is a fascinating process learning how to interpret my style for all these different items. I find I'm working 7 days a week at this point, but it's all fine. I feel truly fortunate and blessed to be able to have a foot in both the children's book and the art licensing worlds."

© Wendy Edelson - Scarf Stripe

I wish you all happy holidays! 


Anna Measures said...

Great Interview!
~Thank You!~ :-)

laura t. said...

Great interview! I had the pleasure of working with Wendy a few years back and she was just wonderful to know to and her work, dazzling! Glad to know she's keeping busy with these wonderful paintings :)

Alison said...

Wow...Wendy's work is beautiful..and Alex you're interviews are fabulous. I'm inspired more and more from your blog.

Patti said...

I am a big fan of Wendy's work!

Anonymous said...

I've been a big fan of Wendy's work ever since we "met" in an artists' e-list years ago.

Thanks for a very in-depth interview to you both.

sue z said...

Wendy & Alex ,
What a great interview. I love your story and artwork Wendy!